Happy Valentine’s Day, to Everybody in School!
Love is in the air! Well, in mid-February it’s more likely that the flu and a few other communicable diseases are what are actually in the air, but thanks to the Hallmark Holiday we all know as Valentine’s Day, men and women scramble to find those tiny trinkets to try and prove to their significant others that they love them more on this day than all the other days of the year. Flowers, chocolates, Mylar balloons, jewelry, stuffed animals, and of course, the multitude of pre-printed Valentine’s Day cards that can be found in any drug store, grocery, or card shop in America fly off the shelves. If you want to eat in a restaurant on the 14th that doesn’t ask if you’d like fries with that, you’d better put your reservation in a month ahead of time.
Of course, there was a simpler time when it came to celebrating Valentine’s Day. For many kids, each year of our primary school years meant handing out valentine’s to all of our classmates. Not just that one boy or girl you called your boo, and not just the ones you secretly pined for. Nope – Valentine’s day was a day to drop little reminders to all of the boys and girls in your classroom of how much affection you harbored for them. And it didn’t take a lot of effort to do so, because the stores were chock full of colorful pre-made cards featuring all of your favorite cartoon and comic book characters! Just pick one out, write the recipient’s name on the envelope and sign your own on the back, and you had given them something to treasure for the rest of their lifetime, or at least until their parents tossed out this year’s Valentine crop by the time March rolled around.
The real effort, at least in my experience, was in creating your “mailbox”. Each year, we constructed a personalized envelope out of construction paper and Magic Markers that we affixed to the back of our chairs, so our classmates could drop their personal declarations of affection into them. I always drew pictures of Spider-Man or Darth Vader on mine, alongside the pink hears that I cut out and affixed with a glue stick.
Of course, when it actually came down to delivering Valentines into other kids’ mailboxes, I did probably the opposite of what I was supposed to do. I would give Valentines to every kid in class except for the girls I had a crush on. After all, I wouldn’t want any of those young ladies to think I actually liked them! I even recall distinctly the time that one girl even confronted me about the fact that I was the only person in class she was missing a Valentine from. Her name was Buffy. Or Sally. Or something like that. Now I’m not so sure. I’m sure I’m confusing multiple unrequited childhood crushes here. But she was blonde with pigtails and wore a lot of vests and I just thought she was the prettiest thing in the world when I was eight years old. Of course, I was dumbstruck, and probably had to resort to something that she took as an insult to weasel my way out of leaving her off of my Valentine’s day list. So, if you’re reading this Buffy or Sally or whatever your name was, I’m sorry if I broke your tiny eight-year-old heart. I had the purest of intentions in mind.
Now, I haven’t been a grade school student for a long time. I can’t personally say whether or not the practice of handing Valentine’s to everyone in your classroom without discretion continues to this day. I can’t even vouch for others’ experiences during the same time that I was a child. For all I know, it was only the weirdos at my schools in Charlotte, North Carolina that traded Valentine’s Day cards with all of their classmates, sexual preferences be damned. It sounds like it’s something that would be more likely today, what with kids being taught about tolerance way more than they were three decades ago. But if it is, then there’s one things that I have to question:
The Teacher Card.
Just about every pack of Valentines that you could purchase had a “Teacher” card. You were not only expected to profess your affection to your peers, but also the adult who was conducting your daily learning session. If I’m not mistaken, as children, we also received personalized notes from our teachers in return as well. Perhaps I grew up in a time of innocence, and maybe I’m overthinking it, but I’m a little weirded out if this is still the case – especially in Florida, where I’m pretty sure every female High School teacher is there exclusively for the opportunity to have a torrid affair with one of their students, if the last couple decades’ worth of news stories is to be believed.
Even weirder? Principal Valentines.
Well, at least Billy Madison was an adult.
My mother was one to never throw anything out when I was growing up. Because of this, I’m sure that somewhere in the basement of the house I grew up in is a stash of hundreds of silly Valentine’s Day cards that I accumulated over the course of my Elementary school years. If I ever get the desire to reminisce and try to remember the names of all the Sallys and Buffys from my school days, maybe I’ll see if I can dig them out, but I think I’ll be content to relive all my memories with these pictures I’ve gathered across the internets.